Story for the Day: Caltrops
There is nothing more delightful to a would-be warrior than discovering a new weapon to be used against his adversaries. It is all the more delightful to the would-be warrior to be taught how to use this weapon by his friends.
Gaumhin read: “Perhaps they shall be,” said Danaco.“Perhaps they are all in terror of being trapped in his great blanket fort.”
“Ah want a blanket fort,” cried Paudrig, dandling himself against Gaumhin’s knee in excitement. “Then we can play blanket siege an’ o’.”
“Aye,” Gaumhin laughed, “then we could maek a place for molten metal cauldrons, build a moat, and throw in some caltrops in the entrancewae tae.”
Paudrig canted his head and his nose curled. “What’re cal-trops?”
Gaumhin looked askance and grew nervous. “Mebbe Ah shouldnae’ve said anaethin’,” he muttered to himself, scratching at the back of his neck.
“Shouldnae have teld me what?”
Here was a terrible pause, and Gaumhin hemmed and shifted his weight, looking everywhere else but at Paudrig’s pleading aspect.
“Aw, ‘mon, Gaumhin,” the child moaned, hanging off Gaumhin’s arm, pulling him and swinging about. “Ye said, so now ye haftae tell meh.”
“No, Ah doant,” said Gaumhin stoutly.
“Aye, ye dae.”
“No, Ah doant, ‘cause when Ah teld ye what it is, ye’ll maek ‘em an’ use ‘em against yer enemaes.”
Paudrig blinked. “But tha’s what Ahm supposed tae dae.”
“No’ while we’re here yer no’. We’re no’ at war, and yer safe with friends here at the church an’ orphanage. Ah know ye thenk he have enemaes, but they’re no’ real foes, lad. Galleisian that’re comin’ at ye with pikes and spears’re real foes. Ah woan’t teld ye’ what it is ‘cause Ah doan’t want tae find severed toes all over the place.”
Paudrig was all instant exhilaration. “Cal-trops slice toes an’ o’?”
“No, but they maek yer enemies bleed from the foot.”
Paudrig gasped and cried, “Tell meh, tell meh, tell meh! Please, Gaumhin?”
A firm shake of the head, and Gaumhin was determined to continue with the story.
“Bruthur Ciran’s teachin’ meh how tae use the Marridon dictionarae,” Paudrig persisted. “If ye doant tell meh what cal-trops are, Ah’ll look in there.”
Gaumhin raised a brow. “Ye doant know how tae spell caltrops, lad. Ye’ll be lookin’ till ye surrender.”
“No, Ah been practicin’ mah spellin’s. Ah know it starts with a C.”
Rather than combat the point by asserting that there were thousands of entries in the Marridon Dictionary beginning with that letter, Gaumhin conceded, foiled by his own lapse in judgement, feeling himself in the throes of sorrowful regret for being to explain what he should never have mentioned. “Aye, o’ right,” he sighed, “but if Ah teld ye, tha’s ye promisin’ no’ tae use it against anaebodae, no’ even Dimeadh and Fionntra.”
Paudrig pouted and looked sullen. “Aye, Ahm promisin’.”
“A real promise.”
“Aye, a real promise an’ o’.”
“Tha’s us shakin’ oan it.”
Gaumhin held out his hand and gave the child a supicious glower.
With one hand slapped inside Gaumhin’s immense palm, Paudrig’s promise was given, and a hardy a shake of the hand secured him an explanation.
“A caltrop is a barbed weapon tha’ looks liek a crow’s foot.” Gaumhin made the shape with his hands, placing his thumb, forefinger, and middle finger spread in three-pronged formation. “It uses the bottom legs tae staun, an’ it’s got one barb that sticks up to attack the person who’s steppin’ on it.”
Paudrig cooed and his eyes glowed with gleeful interest.
“Caltrops were first used in Thellis to take doun horses. Sprinklin’ a few on the ground will get in a horses’ hoof an’ a chariot’s wheel. They were put round the track o’ their arena tae ensure tha’ certain chariots would lose certain races.”
“But tha’s cheatin’!”
“Aye, it’s cheatin’, but they did it anaewae. Some armaes liek the Livanese armae used tae use caltrops tha’ explode when stepped oan.”
|Paudrig and his friend "bear".|
“Whoa…” Paudrig breathed.
“Aye, but they stopped usin’ ‘em ‘cause their oan men were steppin’ oan ‘em tae.”
“Does Frewyn use ‘em?”
“No, lad. Sometimes the Brigade use burs and brambles tae maek traps with, but we doant use metal caltrops. They’re tae dangerous tae be lef’ lyin’ around. Animals can step on ‘em an’ get hurt, or hunters can step oan ‘em an’ get poisioned.”
“Aye, lad. Sometimes caltrop barbs are poisoned, so when the enemae steps oan ‘em, the poison goes right intae the foot, so ye’ll no’ die from the wound, but ye’ll die o’ the poison.”
Paudrig’s lips curled in fiendish smiles. “Can we maek cal-trops, Gaumhin? I wanna see how they wurk an’ o’.”
“But tha’s us promised an’ shook oan no’ usin’ ‘em.”
“Ye said no’ tae use ‘em oan mah enemaes, but Ah didnae promise no’ tae maek ‘em.”
“Aye, but who’re ye gonnae use ‘em oan if no’ yer enemaes?”
“Ye an’ Bruthur Ciran.”
Gaumhin laughed. “Us? Ye doant want tae hurt us, Paudrig-lad.”
“No, but if Ah cannae try ‘em on mah enemies, Ah have tae ask mah friends.”
This reason was sound enough, but Gaumhin knew that Paudrig should never use so malicious a device on anyone he truly loved, and he therefore said, “Aye, later Ah’ll show ye how tae maek ‘em—but nae poison oan ‘em, lad,” and went on reading.